CT1 is a carbohydrate moiety of CD45 that is expressed on fetal thymocytes in vivo. Examination of CT1 expression on thymocyte subsets revealed that primarily pro-T cells (CD44+ CD25+) and pre-T cells (CD44- CD25+) expressed CT1. Interestingly, non-T-lineage committed lymphoid progenitors (CD44+ CD25-) lacked CT1 indicating temporal regulation of expression of this determinant in early T-lineage committed development. In addition, CT1 was expressed by the majority of thymocytes in RAG-2(-/-) mice where thymocyte development is blocked at the CD44- CD25+ stage. Since late pre-T cells (CD44- CD25-) lacked the CT1 epitope we tested whether pre-TCR triggering regulated CT1 expression. Injection of CD3epsilon-specific mAb into RAG-2(-/-) mice induces differentiation of immature thymocytes to the double-positive stage of thymocyte development. Using this system, we demonstrated that expression of CT1 by RAG-2(-/-) thymocytes was rapidly lost from pre-T cells following anti-CD3 mAb treatment. Furthermore, the decline in CT1 expression induced by CD3 signaling paralleled a loss of mRNA for the glycosyltransferase responsible for the addition of CT1 to CD45. Flow cytometric analysis also revealed that the loss of the CT1 epitope was inversely correlated with an increase in peanut agglutinin ligand expression, demonstrating a complex regulation of cell surface glycosylation at a critical juncture in thymocyte development.